Interdisciplinary Teaching Impossible in US?

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I was really surprised to read on another teacher’s blog:

“standards and testing have made interdisciplinary teaching almost impossible in the US.”


HUH? Interdisciplinary teaching just requires that all subjects be organized to correlate with and compliment each other. Today’s textbooks, and included support materials, make interdisciplinary teaching easier than it’s ever been before. There is TONS of overlap between the content in reading, science, health, history, and social studies textbooks, and the current math series all have a lot of lessons built into them that tie into other content areas. You will be teaching to standards and benchmarks whether you keep each subject as separate and isolated, or whether you tie them all together. Tying things together makes them more comprehensible, and easier to learn, since you are looking at the subject from a variety of points of view. This improves testing readiness, it doesn’t detract from it.

I wonder if this teacher thinks integrating instruction takes time away from “learning” or “test preparation”. It actually uses the learning time far more effectively by concentrating on one content area at a time. It DOES take a fair amount of teacher time at the planning stage, as you go through all your materials and reorganize them to correlate with each other, but it certainly doesn’t take any student time away from “standards and testing.”

If you want more information on how to reorganize your content, here are a few previous posts on the issue:

Integrating Instruction–Getting Started

Identifying Themes

Organizing Themes

Integrating Themes–Language Arts Standards

There are other posts to help you develop materials to use with your themes, but these will help walk you through the process of analyzing what you have, reorganizing it, and setting up themes throughout the year. I hope you’ll find it helpful, and realize it will not hurt your test scores in any way. On the contrary, integrating instruction is, and has been for a long time (thousands of years), best practice in education, and consistently results in improved test scores (as long as the children have been taught how to take tests). I think it’s very interesting that “integrated thematic instruction” is now often called “highly effective teaching,” don’t you? I don’t like the new title, because it doesn’t tell you anything about the technique, but it certainly tells you about its results!


This article was originally posted on August 18, 2011 on another website.

This entry was posted in Instructional Planning, Integrated Instruction, Learning, Thematic Teaching, Thinking About Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Interdisciplinary Teaching Impossible in US?

  1. Fatmawaty says:

    Thematic teaching?! Hmm.. Yeah I’ve heard and observed about it. Here at school where I teach, this method is used for class 1-3.
    How about USA? Do the schools in all grades use this method, Teacher Sandie?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sandie says:

    It’s very popular in preschool through third grade here, too. Very few teachers use it with older students, but it’s even more effective with them! I’ve used it with three year olds through eighth graders, and the older the kids are, the more effective it is. It’s really hard to find materials to support thematic teaching (more often called integrated instruction when talking about older students) past grade 3 . That’s why I’m making thematic units for grades 3-6 now that I’m retired. It’s my teaching passion, and it gives me great joy!



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